Spider-Man and the Jews
Just keep climbing.
Spider-Man has always been Jewish.
After all, he’s a nerdy kid from Queens and a star member of the academic decathlon team in a school full of science kids. Not to mention that he has weird strings coming out of his costume.
Spider-Man has always been Jewish. After all, he’s a nerdy kid from Queens
But Spider-Man is also the State of Israel. He’s small and scrappy and fights terrorists, and no one ever gives him the benefit of the doubt. Throughout his history, the media has been trashing him when all he’s doing is holding the line on battles that seem to be personal, but that, if left unchecked, would threaten the entire world.
Sure, it doesn’t help that everything he does in this movie backfires. He saves a bank, but a deli gets blown up. He stops an arms deal, but a ferry gets split in half. And the damage is all anyone seems to see.
Is that really all you see?
But his collateral damage is far smaller than that of the Avengers that everyone idolizes, whose idea for stopping bad guys is, “Let’s try pancaking a building on top of him!”
Even just being observant Jews leaves people with questions. Like Spider-Man, we keep ducking out on people.
“You’re leaving again? What is this ‘Mincha’?”
“Wait, you’re not coming out to eat with us? What’s your excuse this time?”
And Israel is constantly in a situation, like Spider-Man, where we’re held by a double standard and people are overly critical when we try to help.
So what does he do? Does he hang it up?
No, he always chooses to be Spider-Man, even at great sacrifice to his personal life. Dates are upset, his decathlon team is annoyed, and his excuses start to wear thin: “I’ve got a Stark internship.” But they don’t realize that what he’s doing is more important.
I have to go to prayers. I’m holding up the world here.
Spider-Man has exactly one friend in the superhero world – albeit one who doesn’t really have time for him – and that is Iron Man. If Spider-Man represents Israel, then Iron Man represents America. You’d think Captain America would be the one who represents America, but we’re pretty sure he’s a war criminal these days.
Back when Captain America went rogue, Peter had a stint in the Avengers. He had a lot of fun, he got to ride on a plane, and now he wants to do it again. He wants to be an Avenger! He longs to be in a place where he can just battle evil and everyone will fight over the contracts of who gets to clean up his messes.
They’re creating jobs, these Avengers.
So he asks Iron Man, “When’s our next mission?”
“We’ll call you.”
But they never do. Peter sits by the phone and nothing happens. So he keeps himself busy, giving people directions and returning bikes that may or may not have been stolen. There’s not as much crime in the average day as you’d think.
And the most frustrating thing is that we all know that he’s actually the oldest hero – the best one in Marvel’s stable, and the one who belongs there all along – but no one in his world seems to be aware of that. To them, he’s a new kid trying to occupy a spot on the world-saving team that he’s too young to be on.
And we, as Jews, feel his frustrations. We’ve definitely seen better days. Even when we win, we lose. Like us, he’s got one fan – Tony Stark. (Plus his friend Ned, who asks all the tough questions, like, “Wait. How do you do this AND the Stark Internship?” “What does the Hulk smell like?”)
Can I try on your mask?
And he keeps reporting in to Tony Stark, but he’s not even sure that Tony’s paying attention.
We, too, long for a day that we can truly come home. This was our home long before anyone in this world remembers. Has God abandoned us? We’re waiting by the phone. Is he calling? Also, am I comparing Tony Stark to God? Oy.
But what Peter doesn’t realize is that Tony is waiting for him to get better. Not just to keep himself busy.
We can’t just lie around waiting for the phone to ring.
You can’t just sit around waiting for your situation to get better. Sometimes the situation is waiting for YOU to get better. Peter is good, but he’s not as good as he could be. He keeps accidentally taking off his mask in front of people, and every time he leaves his backpack in an alley, it somehow gets stolen. When he wants to interrogate a criminal solely by using a Batman voice, the criminal casually remarks, “You really have to get better at this part of the job.” And he has to figure out how to fight crime in the suburbs where there’s no tall buildings and he’s basically swinging really low through people’s backyards.
Spider-Man is like, “I am TOO good enough.” But just because we have powers – just because we were chosen by the spider – doesn’t mean we’re ready to join the Avengers. He has to get better.
Maybe there’s room for us to improve as well. Maybe God’s waiting for us to get better.
We have to grow into our costume, so to speak.
There’s more to being Jewish than just being chosen. We also have to keep working on ourselves. Climbing higher and higher until the world has no choice but to notice.
Don’t let the vultures get you down.